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Thursday, January 01, 2009

Favorites and a New Direction

My Very Favorites of 2008
The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents - F, YA -Terry Pratchett
A Pigeon and a Boy - F- Meir Shalev
Eden's Outcasts: the Story of Louisa May Alcott and Her Father - NF, B -John Matteson
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society - F- Mary Ann Shaffer & Annie Barrows
The Intention Experiment - NF- Lynn McTaggert
The Wasted Vigil - F- Nadeem Aslam

There were others that I truly enjoyed, but when I went back through, from January - December, the above books stood out.

My goals for next year will reflect a new approach. I want, as I mentioned in this post at Bayou Quilts, a Renaissance Mind, or as Ingrid E. Cummings describes it, a more vigorous mind. I've always loved the concept of the Renaissance Man - soldier, scholar, courtier. When discussing the Renaissance Man with my students, I put it in contemporary terms as well: athletic, well-read & knowledgeable on a variety of topics, and socially capable of carrying on interesting conversations.

I have tried to pursue athletics through tai chi and yoga; I certainly read abundantly, but lately, not with discrimination; I fall quite short in conversational skills, more so now, because I have become more insular.

Although I read a lot, my reading itineraries have become less and less organized in the last couple of years. Bringing more focus to these itineraries will take precedence in 2009; I want to be more selective. Examining my long list of books read was a disappointment; so much time spent on books with so little to recommend them.

No regrets on spending so much time on fiction (although I do intend to include more nonfiction this year), but regrets about the time spent on mediocre (at best) books. I am not an advocate of reading only educational books, classics, or "award-winning" fiction; books that are simply great entertainment should always be in the mix, even dominate the mix.

There will always be mystery, fantasy, and science fiction in my reading because I love those categories-- and from well-written books in those genres, I also learn something.

This year, however, I want to direct some of my reading in ways that broaden my horizons. (...and do more than just think about doing it--I have dozens of great books on my TBR list that have been neglected).

I've begun a list of topics that interest me and/or that I know very little about. :) Not surprisingly it is quite long and growing! Some of these topics merit a more organized study (yoga is one that I intend to study in a more orderly manner), others I'd like to explore just to gain a broader understanding, and then, perhaps, decide to devote greater effort.

My "curriculum" for a more well-rounded, Renaissance mind includes reading, study, yoga practice, physical fitness in general, watching documentaries, reading magazines, stepping outside of my comfort zone, being more socially involved, attending more art exhibits.... In small increments of time, one baby step after another.


  1. Good luck with your goals for the New Year!

    I really must read some more Pratchett. I keep seeing it on Best of.. lists. I have only read like two books by him.

  2. Hi
    It is difficult for me to believe you " fall quite short in conversational skills, more so now, because I have become more insular" since you write so beautifully and communicate through the written word so well.

    I consider myself a good conversationalist and think the key is an avid interest in the person or persons with whom you are conversing. Also sharing information about ones self, the strategic use of questions as building blocks in the ping pong game of conversation. Also, a good listener is usually a good conversationalist.

    Happy New Year.

  3. Those are some pretty lofty goals, Jenclair. Good for you.

    I have a question for you. I read about 57 pages into Mr. & Mrs. Fitzwilliam Darcy and felt exactly as you did, so I set it aside. Do you think it's better to go ahead and mention why you stopped reading a book or to just quietly set it aside? If I set it aside, this will be two Sourcebooks selections in a row that didn't work for me and I feel sort of awful thinking about giving it up, but one of my goals is to set aside the crappy books in 2009 and it is definitely awful.

  4. Good luck in your reading quest, Jenclair! I am seeing all kinds of new directions and goals being posted in the blogs I keep up with.

    My goal is to not buy any books in 2009. I will read from my own shelves (have already discovered treasures that I had forgotten I owned) and, of course, take home books to potentially read from my workplace, the library. I think I can curb my book buying impulses if I concentrate and really treat my bookshelves like a bookstore.

  5. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society is making a lot of people's favorite lists. I'm definitely going to need to read that one sooner than later.

    Good luck with your goals this year, Jenclair. I hope to read better books this year as well.

  6. I aspire to be a Renaissance woman one day I sympathise with your projects! Good luck with them. :D

  7. What a great plan this is! I love the idea. I'm hoping to spend a little more time on thought provoking books, ones outside of my comfort zone. This doesn't mean I won't still read my favorite easy reads, but I didn't have many to choose from on stand out books this year.

  8. Kailana- I tried one Pratchett that I didn't care for, but LOVED The Amazing Maurice.

    Chancy - I can be good with someone who is really good--who confidently converses. I have friends with broad interests that know how to get me started. Yes, asking the right questions and listening well are keys.

    I'm going to be working on that, too!

    bookfool - It is a bit of a dilemma, isn't it? Sometimes, I just set the book aside and never mention it again, but sometimes I feel required to comment. There are so many BAD Jane books around now that I couldn't avoid saying something.

    Kay - Such fun to see the directions other people take in resolutions, goals! The library and ARC are my main source, but I succumb to Amazon way too often.

    LF - You will love it! Here is to better books in our futures!

    Eva - I think you are a Renaissance woman!

    Lisa - Favorite reads are never to be omitted! But yes, I could use more that are "thought provoking."

  9. You loved Maurice! I adore that book :D This probably comes as no surprise coming from me, but seriously, it's one of my very favourite Terry Pratchett books.

    I haven't read any of your other picks, but some are on my wishlist.

    Good luck with your goals for the new year!

  10. Happy New Year, Jenclair! I love your ideas for this year--I'm all for being more well-rounded. I look forward to seeing how things work out. I also would like to read more magazines--both literary and current events and try and vary my reading as well (more NF and works in translation). We'll see how it goes! Good luck with your plans.

  11. Nymeth - I loved that it could appeal to a child and an adult on such different levels. Of course, I have a penchant for fairy tales and their analogues!

    It still charms me.

    Danielle - I do want to work on this in all areas--reading, thinking, action. Can't wait for the magazines to begin arriving--Smithsonian, Mental Floss, a travel magazine, and an environmental magazine. That should give me plenty to chew on...and room for many interesting digressions!

  12. This sounds like an exciting way to approach the new reading year! And, I'm glad to hear The Wasted Vigil made it to your best of list. I have that one sitting on my bookshelf.

    Good luck with your reading plan!

  13. This sounds like a marvelous plan! I am already curious about what you might read and looking forward to hearing about it! Happy 2009!

  14. I love your approach! Best wishes for 2009.

  15. iliana - For some reason, I am finding this approach terrifically exciting!

    The Wasted Vigil is not an easy book, but it is certainly one that makes a deep impression...and makes you think.

    Stefanie - The plan is a result of reading The Vigorous Mind, which I'm not supposed to review until Jan. 20, but that has not stopped me from instituting my "curriculum." I'll post more about some of the books I want to read soon.

    Ex Libris - Thanks and best wishes for your 2009, as well!